Saturday, December 31, 2005

Farkleberry Pie, Recipe and Directions

What am I making for New Year's Day? Farkleberry Pie, of course! Here's my favorite recipe:

Pastry for 2 - 9" pie crusts
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/3 cup flour
1/2 tsp cinnamon
4 cups farkleberries
1 1/2 tbsp butter
1 shredded New American Bible, soaked in lemon juice, and beat to a pulp with meat tenderizer (optional)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Mix sugar flour and cinnamon. Mix lightly with berries. Pour into pastry lined pan. Dot with butter. Cover with top crust (which should have slits cut in it). Seal and flute edges. Cover edge with foil to prevent excessive browning. Bake 35 to 45 minutes or until crust is nicely brown and juice begins to bubble through slits in crust. Serve slightly warm, not hot. Try your farkleberry pie with vanilla ice cream for a perfect color and flavor combination!

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Karl Adam on Communion of Saints

Communion of Saints—what a glad and blessed light illumines it! It is the hidden treasure, the secret joy of the Catholic. When he thinks on the Communion of Saints his heart is enlarged. He passes out of the solitariness of here and of there, of yesterday and tomorrow, of "I" and "thou," and he is enfolded in an unspeakably intimate communion of spirit and of life, far surpassing his needs and dearest wishes, with all those great ones whom the grace of God has forged from the refractory stuff of our humanity and raised to His height, to participation in His Being. Here are no limitations of space and time. From out of the remote ages of the past, from civilizations and countries of which the memory is now only faintly echoed in legend, the saints pass into his presence, and call him brother, and enfold him with their love. The Catholic is never alone. Christ, the Head, is ever with him, and along with Christ all the holy members of His Body in heaven and on earth. Streams of invisible, mysterious life flow thence through the Catholic fellowship, forces of fertilizing, beneficent love, forces of renewal, of a youthfulness that is ever flowering anew. They pass into the natural, visible forces of the Catholic fellowship, especially to pope and bishop, completing and perfecting them. He who does not see and appreciate these forces, cannot fully understand and expound the nature and working of Catholicism. And, indeed, it is simple, child-like faith alone which perceives these forces; and therefore that faith alone discovers the road to sanctity. For such is the prayer of Jesus: "I praise thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hidden these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them to little ones. Yea, Father, for so it hath seemed good in they sight' (Lk. X, 21).

St. Aileran

Monk, biographer, and scholar-also called Sapiens the Wise. Aileran was one of the most distinguished professors at the school of Clonard in Ireland. St. Finian welcomed Aileran to Clonard. In 650, Aileran became rector of Clonard, and was recognized as a classical scholar and a master of Latin and Greek. He wrote The Fourth Life of St. Patrick, a Latin-Irish Litany and The Lives of St. Brigid and St. Fechin of Fore. His last work was a treatise on the genealogy of Christ according to St. Matthew. A fragment of another of Aileran's works has survived: A Short Moral Explanation of the Sacred Names. Scholarly institutions across Europe read this work aloud annually. Aileran died from the Yellow Plague. His death on December 29, 664 is chronicled in the Annals of Ulster. ~ from

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

KSRK: Guilty?/Not Guilty? (January 20. Morning .)

Beautiful lyricism here, as when he writes, "I am well aware that she is lovely, in my eyes indescribably so...", but then it seems to take a sharp turn when he completes the thought by stating, "but I do not feel like throwing the passion of my soul in that direction." This contrast has been present throughout the diary, as Quidam alternates between his inclination for the aesthetic and religious, and in tipping the scales towards the religious he claims that it would be better if she were (1) ugly or (2) unhappy. And wonders whether Socrates would understand his (Quidam's) interpretation of 'loving ugly people'.

I wonder whether Socrates here (and more broadly speaking as well, I suppose) represents for Kierkegaard a stepping stone to the religious. Perhaps Kierkegaard himself regards him as a religious hero, but coming as he does out of the Greek philosophical tradition rather than the Judeo-Christian tradition, Socrates seems to be turned into a kind of quasi-Christian confronting pagan culture. Question: why does Kierkegaard hold up Socrates as the example again and again, rather than Christ? Because it would be madness to pose as Christ? Because Kierkegaard himself was in love with ancient pagan culture? Because Christ would be out of place in an 'aesthetic' work, and therefore is forced to get around it more obliquely by referring by turns to Socrates and 'the religious'?

After mentioning Socrates halfway through the first paragraph, Quidam refers to 'the religious' at the beginning of the second. Lyricism abounds again, although it isn't clear to me whether he is referring to his beloved or, more directly, to an abstract notion of 'freedom from care':
So I have chosen the religious. This is closest to me; my faith is in it. So leave loveliness in abeyance; let heaven keep it for her. If I attain a common point of departure along this road, then come, you smiling freedom from care; I shall rejoice with you as sincerely as I can, braid rosebuds in your hair; I shall handle you as lightly as is possible for me, as is possible for someone who is accustomed to reach for what is crucial with the passion of thought and at the risk of his life.
The conflict Quidam feels between his devotion to the beloved and 'the religious' continues to build in the next paragraph:
That I am so overwhelmed by her - I wonder if she would attribute this effect to love. Impossible, to me that would be the most unlovely thing I can imagine. When I humble myself under God, then to believe that it was under her! No, she does not have that effect upon me. I have been able, can still bear, to live without her if only I retain the religious. But I suspect that the religious crisis is to bring it into what I have begun here.
Not only is there conflict between his devotion to his beloved and the religious, but there is a great deal of uncertaintly regarding the nature of the religious. Taking 'what I have begun here' as a reference to their engagement, the religious 'inbreaking' he desires so much seems to be seeking him out in the midst of his relationship with the fiancée. Is it also possible that 'what I have begun here' refers to his diary - that is to say, his reflections? His attachment to solitude and the art of inclosing reserve?

His attitude towards life is the subject of the last paragraph. In the supplementary section a first draft reveals that he had surpassed his father in his ability to conceal depression. In wondering whether this entire approach to life is askew, he closes with another parable, or analogy:
Suppose a pilgrim had been wandering for ten years, taking two steps forward and one back, suppose that he finally saw the holy city in the distance and was told: That is not the holy city - well, presumably he would keep on walking. But suppose he was told: That is the holy city, but your method is completely wrong; you must break yourself of the habit of walking in this way if you want your journey to be pleasing to heaven! He who for ten years had been waling in this manner with most extreme effort!
Great stuff. Very sad, but very great stuff. This last paragraph reminds me a little of my own introduction to irony of the more deadly variety. In Piers Paul Read's Alive, the survivors of the plane crash make a huge cross of luggage and debris from the crash, which (they hope) will be visible to a search crew flying overhead. They do this in a large, snow covered meadow, and then return to the safety of their fuselage and the supply of corpses with which they are necessarily feeding themselves. The rescue never comes, and eventually two of the survivors hike out on their own and lead back a team to the sight of the crash to take out the remaining survivors. At some point one of the survivors asks about the huge cross made out of debris. Nobody saw it, of course, which was too bad, but what really killed me was a twist that seemed almost satanic in its irony: underneath the cross and ten feet of snow was a deserted shack with enough provisions to have fed them all during their months on the mountain. I still wonder whether Read didn't make it up.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

KSRK: Guilty?/Not Guilty? (January 17. Midnight.)

Here Quidam's organization is made explicitly clear (of course Jonathan made it clear earlier): the 'the night thoughts' are his diary for the current year. I won't be quoting the entire entry here, as my hands are tired, but one of the first sentences caught my attention:
If a human being had invented language, I would believe that he had invented this phrase to ridicule me.
Curious. When Adam gave names to all the animals, was he inventing language? Or did he speak in the language with which God first spoke to him? Why does Kierkegaard (er...Quidam) go to such a rhetorical extreme? At times there seems to me in Kierkegaard a longing for humiliation much like the moth's longing for the flame. However, there at times also seems to me something inherently prophetic about language itself, so that even in the isolation of a diary words can assume an almost conspiratorial obscurity as our fate and freedom are somehow worked out ex verbis, despite our best attempts at finding them elsewhere. At least that's how I interpret his anxiety at the words 'the current year', and perhaps some of the nature of his religious crisis.

The grisly punishment described in the rest of the paragraph perhaps points back to the ambiguity described in a previous entry, in addition to the pain he feels at time passing.

There follows more reflection on cunning and scheming. As I've said before, I think Quidam's fear of being found out is actually a kind of protection of her, as she would be drawn into the same misery were she to become aware of the lengths to which he's gone in order to conceal his anxiety and depression. The last sentence remains something of a mystery to me:
"It might lead her in false hope out into the indeterminable and let her be saved - that is, perish, be lost in half measures."
By 'indeterminable' does he mean the same sort of ambiguity that he is suffering under? If so, how is she 'saved'? Why 'lost in half measures'?

In the next paragraph Kierkegaard has more to say about 'inclosing reserve,' although he here he writes about how to estimate the extent of his inclosure, as if this person were someone other than himself:
One is silent - he is annoyed at the lull, betrays more and more, if not by anything else, then by his eagerness to conceal. But when one knows this, then one performs one's exercises in time. And the art is to speak about it a little (for complete silence is unwise) and thus deftly to keep a consuming passion in firm control of the conversation so that, just like an equestrian, one can guide it with a sewing thread and, just like a driver, swing around in a figure eight.
Is he suggesting that this is how others should handle him? Or is he really referring to someone else, as if he were saying that 'it takes one to know one.'

In the next paragraph Quidam gives us a number of abstractions and metaphors that illustrate this inclosing reserve:
"To scheme is a distraction..."
"To have passion as a gambler has..."
"To have the soul full of reckless courage and the mind of plans..."
"To have passion as a fisherman has..."
"To have in your power the one who could tell everything..."
"To have to be satisfied with a chance word from a maidservant..."
"To have to make soup from a sausage peg..."
and then at the end,
"If a person were going to confide in someone and then dared to choose only the one whom he could not trust - that is, to confide in him in the form of a deception."
Some of those analogies are supposed to reverse the sentiment of the one previous, so perhaps it shouldn't surprise us that the paragraph ends in an odd leap into the irrational.

And if that last sentence seems a headlong leap into the irrational, what is to be made of the next paragraph?
The only person I actually manage to learn anything from is a long way from being in my service. Yet we have a secret understanding. He knows everything; he is perhaps the most dependable of all. Fortunately he hates me. If possible, he will torture me - indeed, that I understand. he never says anything directly, never mentions any names, but tells me such strange stories. At first I did not understand him at all, but now I know that he is talking about her but using fictitious names. he believes I have sufficient imagination to understand every allusion, and that I do, but I also have enough sense to pass it off as nothing. Yet I must count on his being maevolent.
To whom is he speaking? I can think of no one besides the beloved's father, but that doesn't make much sense either.. In the next paragraph he again imagines her death and his arrest for murder, but then subverts that by referring to this justice as a travesty:
Human justice, after all, is just nonsense, and three authoritiies only make the joke boring. The prossecuting attorney and the defense attorney are like Harlequin and Pierrot, and justice is like Jeronymus or Cassandra, who are led by the nose. Everything here is ludicrous, including the guards who parade at the execution. The executioner is the only acceptable character.
My hunch at this point is that Quidam is seeking a life or death decision (or is emphasizing the life or death drama already invoked by his beloved) in order to invest it with religious significance.

In the final three paragraphs he switches back and forth between posturing as Don Quixote or as a perfidious rogue, before winding it all up with a quotation from Shakespeare's Cymbeline. I'm sure I've missed most of what he intends with this, but it does seem to me that he is obliquely referring to the difficulty in existing in inclosing reserve.
... a language that sensu eminenti then has the characteristic that if a person cannot speak it fluently he cannot speak it at all - that is, it simply does not exist for him.
Well, I've been working on this passage for a month, and it's still pretty opaque. More anon.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Material Origins

. . . what about the universe,
With its materials so diverse?
If the “Big Bang” was the source,
Then what preceded that great force?

So you see many questions abound
In nature’s vast lost and found.
We can only guess as we ponder,
And be amazed by god’s wonder.

~ Paul Gamble (1935-2005)

Friday, December 09, 2005

Le Amiche

Maybe the best Antonioni movie I've seen yet. It was made a few years before L'Avventura and all the other austere masterpieces, and includes a little more dialogue and dramatic development. The Master was already up to his old tricks (mirror shots, seashore scenes and identity crises galore), and it's tempting to say that here they're not so old.

Clelia (Eleonora Rossi Drago) is in Turin on business to set up a new fashion salon. A chambermaid discovers the lifeless body of a young woman (Madeleine Fischer) in the next room. As the police are interviewing Clelia the next day they are interrupted by the arrival of Momina (Yvonne Furneaux), who has come to visit her friend, who, we learn, has attempted suicide but survived, and is named Rosetta. Clelia is soon drawn into their circle and gets to know Nene and her fiance Lorenzo, and a young woman Mariella (Anna Maria Pancani, who at one point says to her more career oriented friends, "What am I good at? Ask the men, they'll tell you!"). It turns out that Momina is seeing Cesare (Franco Fabrizi), the architect of Clelia's salon. Clelia herself forms a brief attachment to the architect's assistant, Carlo (Ettore Manni). And that's just the beginning of the entanglements in this compelling melodrama.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Michael Wood on William T. Volume

Michael Wood has a nice article on William T. Vollman in the latest issue of the New York Review of Books. Most of it concerns the latest National Book Award winner, Europe Central, a book I started but just couldn't finish. I'll try again when I'm unemployed again. I enjoyed, really enjoyed, The Rainbow Stories (especially the Green Dress), which I read a few years back, and Europe Central is the same sort of sprawling, 1,000 page epic we've come to expect from him every few months.
From the beginning of his career Vollmann has understood that distortions of the real can improve rather than hinder our vision. His first novel, You Bright and Risen Angels (1987), was subtitled "A Cartoon," and had an epigraph from a manual on graphic art: "Only the expert will realize that your exaggerations are really true." Even the expert would have had a little trouble with this particular book, a hectic, allusive, and very funny account of the long war between a reactionary imperial power pictured as an electricity-mad America and the forces of rebellion represented by a seething mass of insects and their human allies. The exaggerations—the portraits of capitalists as rapaciousness personified, of revolutionaries as children who never got over the horrors of summer camp—are not meant to be "really true," but they do hint at forms of continuity that are important to Vollmann. A hyperbole, he is saying, is the rhetorical end of a line which may start out in modest-looking fact. Or more polemically, "nothing displays such an artificial nature as 'life as we know it.'"
Elsewhere in the article (and in Rising Up and Rising Down, his multi-volume epic study on the morality of violence), Vollman writes the following:
"I take my meaning where I can find it. When I can't find it, I invent it. And when I do that, I deny meaninglessness, and when I do that I am lying to myself."
I'm not sure that coheres very well, as it leads right back to the beginning of the quote, where he takes meaning where he can find it. Or maybe it's supposed to.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Huskies 99, Bulldogs 95

It was a real barn burner last night, but the Huskies managed to come out on top in the end. Adam Morrison may be one of the best all around college players we've seen in a long time. He almost pulled out a win all by himself.

The preseason All-America selection was at times unstoppable. He made 18 of 29 shots to match the career-high 43 points he scored in Gonzaga's triple-overtime victory over Michigan State last month in the Maui Classic.

But it still wasn't enough to beat the Huskies.

Just in case you hadn't heard.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

The Slow Man

The latest novel by J.M. Coetzee has been creamed by the last couple of reviewers I've read, so I thought I'd weigh in briefly to say that it is quite a good novel, a great novel, actually, that continues in the same metafictional spirit that characterized his last book, Elizabeth Costello. Elizabeth Costello, in fact, is an important character in this novel as well, though not the most important. That distinction belongs to Paul Rayment, an Australian in his mid-sixties who at the beginning of the story is hit by a car while bicycling along Magdill road in Adelaide, and then suffers the loss of a leg on the operating table.

His reaction is understandably bitter, a bitterness which is brought to life by his dismissal of a number of caretakers, the companionship of a lady friend, and even the prosthesic leg that would give him something approaching the mobility he had before. His world lightens only with his growing awareness of the vitality of his nurse, Marijana Jokic, a Croatian immigrant who brings her youngest daughter and a number of malaprops with every blessed visit. Just when he is beginning to appear settled in his newfound infatuation, along comes Elizabeth, whom he has never met, but who is strangely aware of even the most minor details of his case. And more than that, as the lady novelist recites for Paul and for us readers the first lines of Slow Man itself.

What, exactly, is achieved with this structural arrangement, in which a fictional author is granted her limited omniscient perspective, but is also improbably forced (or perhaps she just as improbably chooses) to sleep on benches in a nearby park? Is she a stand-in for Coetzee? Sometimes it seems so, as when she speaks the first lines of the novel, but sometimes it's something more and sometimes it is something less. Perhaps it's part of a rather elaborate joke, as the Croatian surname of Paul's nurse so obviously signals. It is a joke that Paul himself seems reluctantly all too aware of. It also affords the author (authors, rather - Coetzee and Costello) of sincerely exploring the fictional space we inhabit for some 250 odd pages, as well as the metafictional space that works like a kind of wormhole within it. Metaphysics, I sometimes think, can help us resist the temptations of sentimentality and renew our sense of comedy. I wonder whether something similar can be achieved in storytelling with the metafictional technique. Consider the following passage:
'Am I to infer,' he says to her on the Sunday evening, 'that you have come knocking on my door in order to study me so that you can use me in a book?'

She smiles. 'Would that it were so simple, Mr Rayment.'

'Why is it not simple? It sounds simple enough to me. Are you writing a book and putting me in it? Is that what you are doing? If so, what sort of book is it, and don't you think you need my consent first?'

She sighs. "If I were going to put you in a book, as you phrase it, I would simply do so. I would change your name and one or two of the circumstances of your life, to get around the law of libel, and that would be that.'

In fact, Paul sees her work-in-progress on his coffee table and realizes it must be a biography or some sort of documentary. Perhaps a novelization. In a rush of dramatic irony, we as readers are made aware of the fact that Costello knows not just the story of Paul, but the very novel we have in our hands. The lives of writers and the lives of their characters are inextricably intertwined. Costello may be a stand-in for Coetzee, but if that seems to fit we must also acknowledge that Paul seems a pretty good match for the author as well (he's a man, for one thing); maybe even a better one. In the exchange above (and elsewhere in the novel as well) we learn through Elizabeth that literary creation isn't all that simple. With Paul we can learn that however bitterly we may choose to regard our plight, the ongoing story of our lives will always offer new surprises. Could it be otherwise? Maybe. But it isn't here. There are always choices to make, by author and by character, and that is part of what makes the story so true.

Obvious, maybe; great fun definitely. Moreover, this fun, all this joking around, is rather casually connected to purpose. Or much of it is; sometimes, as Elizabeth says, a joke is just a joke. There are plenty of other instances in which the joke allows us to watch Paul in more dire straits: there are scenes of humiliation, scenes of lyrical outburst, scenes of great existential angst. Perhaps not all of these are necessarily anchored by the double fold of fiction, but after the Death of the Author, and maybe the Death of the Death of the Author, Coetzee's latest work strikes me as a very fine road to travel on. Profoundly enjoyable.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

La Notte

Giovanni (Marcello Mastroianni), a sucessful writer, and his wife Lydia (Jeanne Moreau) visit their friend Tommaso, who lies dying painfully in a hospital. After their visit they go to a promotional party for his new book, but Lydia steals away to visit the other side of Milan, where they once lived. They meet back at home and decide to visit the party of the billionaire Gherardini. Giovanni falls Gherardini's daughter Valentina (Monica Vitti), and Lydia, after observing her husband and Valentina kiss, begins a flirtatious episode of her own, although she breaks it off before any feelings develop. Slow moving, but that's certainly part of it. A great movie; every bit as good as L'Avventurra. My favorite scene is when the party is broken up by a rainstorm. People jump into the pool, even though they are wearing formal wear, and best of all is the woman who starts making out with the statue of a satyr. Incredible.

Friday, December 02, 2005

KSRK: Guilty?/Not Guilty? (January 17. Morning.)

A year ago today. What is this? What does it mean? I am as agitated as the forest's anxious quivering before the storm. What kind of presentiment oppresses me? I do not recognize myself. Is this love? Oh, no! This much I certainly do realize - that it is not with her, it si not with Eros that I must struggle. it is religious crises that are gathering over me. My life-view has become ambiguous - how, I cannot as yet say. And my life belongs to her, but she suspects nothing.
The supplementary passage provided by the Hongs might actually be important here:
..... but with God; it is a religious battle that gathers over me; it is my view of life that demands a rebirth. What sorrow. There I sit with the suffering in my soul, and with me sits the young girl; she does not suspect how this pertains to her. Only I see the sword over our head, and I grow old, and she - she is my beloved.
I do think the 'life-view has become ambiguous' in the final version is essential, as it characterizes his predicament so much better than 'sorrow.' Though the latter has perhaps more poetic (dramatic?) impact, the 'suffering in my soul' sounds almost maudlin, even if it is accurate.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Brian Boyd on Lolita & Caetano Veloso

Margaret Throsby interviews Brian Boyd (author of the masterful two part biography) on Australian radio on the occassion of the 50th anniversary of the publication of Lolita.

"I think Nabokov had no doubts about where he stood in relation to Humbert, although he certainly does make it difficult for the reader"

"Consciousness is both a marvelously expansive space, and yet also it can be a prison. And that coming from our own position, we tend to excuse things, we blind ourselves to other people in the pursuit of our own interests. He seduces us into seeing from Humbert's point of view and realizing at the same time that we really should be seeing from Lolita's point of view."

Includes an incredibly beautiful song, "Cucurrucucu Paloma" by Caetano Veloso at the 17 minute mark.

An odd combination, perhaps, but that's radio.

Dicen que por las noches
no más se le iba en puro llorar;
dicen que no comía,
no más se le iba en puro tomar.
Juran que el mismo cielo
se estremecía al oír su llanto,
cómo sufrió por ella,
y hasta en su muerte la fue llamando:
Ay, ay, ay, ay, ay cantaba,
ay, ay, ay, ay, ay gemía,
Ay, ay, ay, ay, ay cantaba,
de pasión mortal moría.
Que una paloma triste
muy de mañana le va a cantar
a la casita sola
con sus puertitas de par en par;
juran que esa paloma
no es otra cosa más que su alma,
que todavía espera
a que regrese la desdichada.
Cucurrucucú paloma, cucurrucucú no llores.
Las piedras jamás, paloma,
¿qué van a saber de amores?
Cucurrucucú, cucurrucucú,
cucurrucucú, cucurrucucú,
cucurrucucú, paloma, ya no le llores